Manchester United 2-1 Arsenal – Post match thoughts: Robin van Perfect, penalties and finishing

by Sam Peoples
Manchester United 2 (van Persie, Evra) Arsenal 1 (Cazorla)

1. Robin van Perfect. It only took two minutes for van Persie to net his tenth goal already this season against Arsenal on Saturday and it was an afternoon all about the Dutchman.

He showed just why Arsenal fans loved him for eight years in his celebration for the goal – a muted “hands up” indicating he wanted little to do with celebrating scoring against his old team. Despite the bile that has been hurled at him since he joined Arsenal, he did all he could to respect his time with them. You only have to look at how Adebayor and Tevez celebrated against their old teams when they scored to see what some players choose to do but van Persie chose to stay classy.

And it wasn’t just his goal that grabbed the headlines as on another day, he might have had two or three goals. He just keeps getting better with every game he plays and although the Cantona comparisons are a bit early, few transfers in United’s history have had quite as much impact as van Persie’s this year.

2. Poor finishing. A final score of 2-1 on Saturday was more than flattering to say the least. Arsenal came to Old Trafford and were cannon fodder and it was only Manchester United’s lack of a clinical finish that stopped a rout from happening.

Rooney’s penalty, Valencia’s mis-kick, van Persie’s chances – we had plenty of opportunities to kill the game off but didn’t and if we were playing a team that had any bite going forward on Saturday, we might have been punished for it.

We might be the league’s top goalscoring team but we cannot afford to go wasting as many golden opportunities as we had against Arsenal. You can be sure that Sir Alex won’t be wanting to lose the league on goal difference again.

3. The need to be spot on. Manchester United have only converted two times from six penalties this season with van Persie, Nani, Hernandez and Rooney all guilty of missing from the spot.

Wayne Rooney has a penalty conversion rate of 65%. That’s bad. I’m not particularly sure why he is taking the penalties with Robin van Persie in the team now – although, he didn’t do too well with his gaff against Southampton did he?

Penalties are all but free goals. Strikers are expected to convert from the spot but Rooney never instils confidence in me. Ever since his barren run last season where he missed a few penalties in a row before scoring two in the dramatic 3-3 draw with Chelsea, he has exuded an uncertainty whenever he steps up.

Responsibility should be shifted to Robin van Persie who was lethal from the spot for Arsenal. We might not have been punished for any of our penalty misses so far, so we need to make the change before it happens.

4. Full back prominence. Rafael and Evra have really hit the season running this year, Rafael in particular. The young Brazilian has been rightfully earning plaudits from Sir Alex who believes he has the ability to follow in the footsteps of Gary Neville. Judging from his performances this season, he certainly has the ability.

He has settled in since playing with Brazil in the 2012 London Olympics and made the right-back spot his own in the absence of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Alongside Robin van Persie, I think he has been our best player this year and he’s even managed to bag himself two goals along the way.

As for Patrice Evra, we are seeing a welcome return to the form of what once was the world’s best left back. The arrival of Alexander Buttner has had the desired effect – he has his determination to fight for his place back. Complacency has disappeared out of his game and he seems to have found his passion again.

Like Rafael, he has netted twice this season after going four years without netting one but it isn’t his goals that are impressing. He is now showing once again why Sir Alex has had continued faith in the Frenchman and our stand in captain is once again leading by example.

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